This year the Mental Health Foundation are focussing on relationships, it can be challenging at the best of times to maintain and develop meaningful and open relationships. Our mental health or the lack of clarity on what mental health conditions actually are or affect can cause unintended friction and misunderstandings. Every person is different, but some of the ways we act may become clearer if the symptoms of conditions (argh, hate the word symptom, that’s a different blog for a different time) were better known. For instance, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are often misrepresented and actually very little about them is common knowledge. Whether you are diagnosed with a mental health condition or not the relationships we form are a huge part of what adds up to our happiness and wellbeing.
It certainly took me a long time to understand what a good relationship was and when people were bad for me, or relationships were toxic. We all think we know an abusive relationship and we’d never end up in one but it’s harder to recognise sometimes, especially if you are clouded in self doubt and low self esteem. There are people that will intentionally manipulate you and sometimes it can be people struggling with mental health issues themselve but dealing with it, by not dealing with it. That can lead to following someone down a negative or destructive path. The latter are the hardest to be around at times, it can feel like a betrayal to realise you can’t get better while holding someone’s hand that’s pulling you towards things that don’t help you. That doesn’t mean you have to let them go, you can still be there for that person, but you don’t have to follow them down the rabbit hole to do that. The best way is to take care of yourself while trying to remain open and honest with care.
In my teens I was truly blessed to find a few angels walking on Earth and these few unwavering friendships helped me through some of the hardest years, they helping me stop cutting, they helped me to see myself in a positive light, they dug me out of wishing I wouldn’t wake up, they taught me to hold myself accountable but to show myself love and forgiveness and I am forever grateful that I still have a couple of those people in my life to this day and they are still teaching me all those things (sometimes I forget). I am loved unconditionally and I try my best to show others that same love, hopefully they feel that. Empathy and compassion even for, sometimes especially for those, who we feel wronged by can help us grow and have more meaningful relationships in the future.
When I set up Free Hand it was with the idea of support through art and creativity or alongside it. Now, I guess it’s more focussed on the value of creating together, conversation, support, and being a constant presence. People have created some amazing work and I hope people feel they’ve learnt a new skill or found a new technique, but more so I hope they’ve found a friend in me and the other people there. I hope it’s meaningful because of what we’ve created together. I’ve laughed and cried and met some incredible new friends. I hope that continues.
More info on Mental Health Week HERE
Warning signs HERE
Mental Health A-Z HERE